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Is the Mystery Dog Respiratory Illness Still a Threat?


Last fall, a concerning surge in cases of a mysterious dog respiratory virus across multiple states sparked alarm. The emerging health threat exhibited symptoms akin to canine infectious respiratory disease complex (CIRDC), commonly referred to as kennel cough. However, it puzzlingly resisted standard treatments. Termed a “mystery” by Oregon and reported in over a dozen states, this phenomenon induced anxiety among dog owners nationwide.

The mystery dog respiratory virus remains a threat, despite waning confirmed cases

In response to the outbreak, the United States Department of Agriculture National Veterinary Services Laboratories initiated genetic sequencing of some reported cases. Their findings revealed a shared cause behind many of the illnesses. This suggests a non-specific viral origin rather than a singular new infection, as stated recently to USA TODAY.

Tracking the prevalence of this disease proved challenging due to the absence of a central data collection system. However, experts now believe that the wave of cases has subsided, attributing the incident to a periodic surge in dog illnesses. This pattern is not uncommon in recent years.

Dr. Scott Weese, an authority on emerging animal diseases, highlighted the incremental nature of these occurrences. He contrasted it with the abrupt impact of new pathogens such as the one responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, he noted a gradual uptick in respiratory diseases among canines, punctuated by occasional spikes.

Interestingly, data from pet insurance company Trupanion has documented a noticeable uptick in respiratory illness claims since pandemic restrictions were lifted, although the direct cause remains uncertain. From a relatively steady claim rate between 2018 and 2020, 2022 saw an increase, though the data also indicated a decline in fatalities from such illnesses. Moreover, Trupanion emphasized that age, breed, and preexisting health conditions play significant roles in a dog’s susceptibility and potential severity of respiratory illness.


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